Tag Archives: AFACT

AFACT hosts event, interfaith prayer vigil against racism – tomorrow @ 1 p.m., Central Lutheran Church

Church Visits has received word from Anna Bryant, Executive Director of Anchorage Faith & Action Congregations Together (AFACT) they will be hosting an inter-faith prayer vigil this coming Sunday (8/20) from 1-2 pm at Central Lutheran Church, 15th and Cordova, to address the violent displays of racism during and after the events in Charlottesville.

Anna notes that in addition to the pastors from AFACT’s 16 member congregations, they will be joined by Marcus Sanders from Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Fairview and Rabbi Avram from Congregation Beth Sholom. AFACT is encouraging car pooling as much as possible to allow for good utilization of Central Lutheran’s parking lot.

If you are as discouraged about the recent stand against racism as I am, you’ll be interested in being a part of this event. I think this is a great idea, and urge your attendance in this timely event. I’ll be there and look forward to seeing you there too!

Several AFACT documents about this event are attached. Bring your friends and neighbors.

Chris Thompson
churchvisits@gmail.com

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There’s Still a Place at My Table for You at the AFACT Breakfast on Tuesday–7:30 a.m.

Dear Local Anchorage Readers
As mentioned in my last post, I’m attending the AFACT Breakfast of Hope, Central Lutheran Church – 7:30 a.m. I’d love to have you join my table, get acquainted, and also hear about what AFACT is doing in our faith community.

This link provides greater detail:
http://www.churchvisits.com/2017/05/join-me-for-breakfast-in-anchorage-next-tuesday/

Please RSVP me at churchvisits@gmail.com if you can join me for this informative breakfast.

Blessings

Chris

Join Me for Breakfast in Anchorage Next Tuesday?

Dear Local “Church Visits” Reader
I’d like to invite you to join my table at AFACT’s “Breakfast of Hope”. This event is a complimentary breakfast for people to come and learn more about AFACT (Anchorage Faith & Action-Congregations Together). Yes, it is a fundraiser. There is no minimum or maximum gift requested. You are welcome to join me to learn more about the organization and the work they are doing in the city of Anchorage.  It will be the job of the organization to inspire people to want to give. As much as anything, we want people to come and find out about the great work AFACT is doing to change the lives of families in our community.

What: AFACT’s third annual “Breakfast of Hope” fundraiser

When: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
7:30am – 8:30am

Where: Central Lutheran Church
1420 Cordova St.
(15th Ave. and Cordova St.)

AFACT (Anchorage Faith & Action—Congregations Together) was created in 2003 by eight local pastors to organize, empower and mobilize local faith communities to address quality of life issues impacting the community.  Since its inception, members of local faith communities have stepped into leadership roles on a multitude of issues (examples below) and have worked with public and elected officials on all sides of the political spectrum.  AFACT’s congregation-based community organizing model is at its core, about people.  Today its membership includes sixteen diverse faith congregations across Anchorage.

Some of the issues addressed by AFACT leaders are:

  • public safety, bike and pedestrian safety
  • improving neighborhoods (streets, dumpsters, graffiti, bus stops)
  • chronic homelessness
  • substance abuse, including detox & treatment
  • health care (Medicare, Denali Kid Care, Medicaid Expansion)
  • education (specifically the quality of education for native students in ASD)
  • children’s issues (summer recreation and lunch programs, after- school care)
  • voter engagement (public candidate forums, voter registration & Get Out the Vote)
  • immigration reform

Also visit www.anchoragefact.org  for more information.  I look forward to hosting you at my table.  Please RSVP by sending me an email at churchvisits@gmail.com.  Just say YES, I’ll be there to sit with you and learn more. I’d also consider it a great honor to get to know some of my readers better.

Blessings and thank you!

Chris

Six inspiring things from Anchorage faith organizations in 2015

During my forays into the local faith community in 2015 I experienced an intriguing mix of sights, sounds, venues and celebrations. This week I’ll briefly describe some that made lasting impressions. Next week I focus on my perennial quest regarding what I’d like to see churches tackle in 2016.

These impressions are mine alone, and omission isn’t intended as a slight to any faith-based organization in Anchorage.

Faith community support of social causes

As the years go by, I’m increasingly enthusiastic when local faith organizations and their members go out of their way supporting charitable causes such as Thanksgiving Blessing, Crop Hunger Walk, food banks and food distribution programs, kids programs, etc. There is sufficient need in our community, and these efforts show that, for the most part, Christian organizations walk the talk. When Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church periodically holds two-hour Beer and Hymns events, more than $5,000 is raised for Lutheran Social Services of Alaska. Church food drives are incredibly successful too, such as when St. Mary’s Episcopal Church collects donations of more than 4,000 jars of peanut butter plus other food items during the year.

Catholic celebrations mark years of progress

The Archdiocese of Anchorage held several important celebrations this year. One marked the 100th anniversary of Holy Family Cathedral, and the 50th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Anchorage. Many artifacts of local church history were on display, accompanied by colorful presentations by many local Catholic leaders. The ceremonial Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe marking Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz’s 75th birthday (and 25th anniversary of his ordination as bishop) was full of music, co-celebrating archbishops and bishops, and many priests. The investiture ceremony of the Royal Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, presided over by a cardinal, was a spectacular peek into church history.

Orthodox visits impressed me deeply

The Eagle River Institute at St. John Orthodox Cathedral during August afforded opportunities to learn about orthodoxy, and its history, especially Syrian-born Rev. George Shaloub’s lectures on Middle Eastern Christianity. With the Syrian refugee crisis in the headlines at the moment, it’s too bad more local Christians did not hear his messages. Vespers, held after supper each day, provided music and liturgy harking back to apostolic times. A recent visit to St. Tikhon Orthodox Church delighted me. The hour and a half liturgy was supported by an all-male choir singing in four-part harmony. The Russian Christmas celebration at St. Innocent Russian Orthodox Cathedral was filled with music and liturgy, my first experience with starring, a beautiful Orthodox tradition brought from Ukraine.

Church worship experiences in middle schools

New churches (church plants) meeting in middle schools were a pleasant visit focus. Clark, Begich, Wendler, and Hanshew middle schools were the focus of those visits. They pay a standard Anchorage School District rental rate for use of the multi-purpose room for adult meetings and classrooms for the younger kids. Churches must bring everything needed and set up every Sunday, taking it all down after, but it works beautifully. Many of these locations provide better settings than some of our local churches. In each of these services, the proportion of millennials was greater than in an average church. I’ve been personally blessed by the number of these services I’ve attended, never feeling the absence of a dedicated brick-and-mortar church as a disadvantage.

AFACT support of Medicaid expansion

Earlier this year, Anchorage Faith and Action Congregations Together challenged the state Legislature with words and prayer at the Legislative Information Office to expand the Medicaid system on behalf of the working poor who slip through the cracks. AFACT, a local coalition of 14 local congregations, worked tirelessly on behalf of expansion. In the end, expansion of the health-care program did happen. When I attended the AFACT celebration at St. Anthony Catholic church in early fall, I was impressed with the passion this dedicated group expressed. I was especially taken with Pastor Julia Seymour’s remarks referring to “social junk.” She’s right. It’s so easy to criticize and ignore those among us we regard as not worthy of our consideration. However, everyone counts in our society, or it begins to rot from the center.

Longevity of senior pastors in our community

My interview with All Saints Episcopal’s Rev. Norman Elliott as he reached his 96th birthday was a true delight. His tireless devotion to his church, and the spiritual lives of those in our hospitals, should be an inspiration to us all. It’s not often we get to know a living church legend; Elliott certainly fits the bill. His stories of pastoring and teaching in the villages, coupled with flights of daring in the parish airplane, are fascinating. Whenever he digresses into the poetry of Geoffrey Anketell Studdert-Kennedy, which he manages to slip into most sermons, he becomes a different man. Elliott is devoted to God and to his church. Retired Archbishop Francis T. Hurley celebrated his 45th year as bishop this year. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing him several times, and like Elliott, he was a flying priest who ministered to a far-flung area. Both have interesting tales of serving God by airplane. The Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church celebration of Pastor Alonzo Patterson’s 45th anniversary as their pastor and 66th anniversary of being a pastor was a warm and effusive display of love for their pastor. Many guest pastors were on hand to add their congratulations and thanks to God for Patterson’s many years of service. The musical tributes were warm and from the heart. It was an exceptional event to have experienced.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, churchvisits.com.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, emailcommentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

AFACT celebrates Medicaid expansion

Last Saturday I attended an interfaith prayer vigil and Medicaid expansion celebration held at St. Anthony Catholic Church. It was a service with much prayer, music, scriptural readings, and a sermonette. It felt like a church service, but with a distinct purpose. I was invited by a friend, a member of a congregation belonging to AFACT, or Anchorage Faith and Action — Congregations Together. AFACT is composed of 14 Christian congregations representing a diverse array of backgrounds working to address quality of life issues in Alaska’s largest city.

AFACT’s statement about Medicaid expansion is here. It’s very straightforward. Based on biblical and Alaska constitutional grounds, it’s an issue of equality and fairness. When Gov. Bill Walker asked the Legislature to address Medicaid expansion, he was rebuffed. AFACT members lobbied in person, and conducted prayer vigils to bring them to their senses, but no action was taken. That’s when Walker stepped in.

I was absolutely riveted by Lutheran Church of Hope pastor, the Rev. Julia Seymour’s remarks. She asked how many of us have a junk drawer in our houses. All hands went up.

“Most of us have a ‘junk drawer’ in our houses,” she said. ”It’s a place where we stick the odds and ends that are useful, but never seem to have a home. The Medicaid expansion gap in our state functioned as a societal junk drawer. It was the place where working, single adults fell; those who did not make quite enough to afford to buy into the exchanges and weren’t in dire enough straits to be covered by anything else.”

She was right; I’d just never thought of it that way.

Later, Seymour told me AFACT members were “drawn together through their understanding of Scripture. Again and again, Hebrew Scripture, the Gospels, and the Epistles remind God’s faithful there is no such thing as a social junk drawer. Every person has a place. Every person belongs. When people belong, they should receive the benefits of having a place in society. In our work as communities of faith together, this has meant working toward a medical social safety net that covers all Alaskans.”

She finally observed this was “part of the ongoing joy that is part of being churches working together. For AFACT congregations, a Baptist, a Catholic, and a Quaker walking into a bar together isn’t a joke. We are grateful to God that it is our reality.”

I turned to the Rev. Max Lopez-Cepero, of First Covenant Church of Anchorage, curious about its AFACT involvement. “Our congregation joined AFACT,” he said, “because we found a missing link in the way we were responding to people in need. Churches are often good at compassion ministry; raising money and food for individuals and families who have needs. But most churches pay little attention to the structures and public policies which cause those needs. We realized that compassion and justice are different facets of our call to love our neighbor. Compassion is working to help hurting people. Justice is working to end what hurts people. We wanted to give some balance to our care by addressing justice as well as compassion in our outreach. AFACT has a track record of working with churches to identify justice issues in keeping with our Christian heritage.”

For me, Lopez-Cepero really nailed it when he said, “There is a heresy in some churches that God does not want government to do justice for the poor; that this should be a choice for involvement made by individuals and perhaps churches. Those taking this stand seldom apply this idea to other issues of justice and morality. In King David’s last Psalm he offers a prayer for his son Solomon who is to become the new king. Several stanzas of that prayer refer to the responsibility of the government to bring justice to the poor.” (Lopex-Cepero refers to Psalm 72, sometimes thought to be David’s last. One verse reads,”May the King defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor.”)

I’ve visited some of those churches he refers to, as have some of you.

“AFACT is about people, the people we love,” said the Rev. Fred Bugarin, pastor of St. Anthony Catholic Church. “If Medicaid expansion serves a need, and in this case, a critical need for the 42,000 uninsured Alaskans, then our faith mandates us to act justly on behalf of these, our people in need.”

To me, Bugarin echoes the voices of so many Christians around the world, and especially the Middle East, who at this time, are dying for their faith. As I write this, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing from the Middle East to protect their loved ones. Many in Europe today, are refusing aid and comfort to those in dire distress; governments stand idly by as thousands perish on their shores.

Next time you meet with your legislators, ask them if they are satisfied with their health plan. Assuming they’ll say yes, then ask them why they would stand in the way of helping those who are trapped by income and circumstance.

I stand amazed that our legislators continue to pour huge sums of our money into fighting this issue further in the courts.

There is much to criticize in churches today, but not the efforts of AFACT congregations who pursue a truly Christian ideal of social justice for those caught in the “junk drawer.”

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog,churchvisits.com.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.